Welcome to our detailed Crete itinerary, destined to give you an action packed taste of what Crete is all about within a short amount of time. After exploring this charming but very large Greek island, we’ve assembled a step-by-step list of recommendations that cover many of the main sites, towns and attractions.
If you’re looking for a Crete 5 day itinerary, 7 day itinerary, 10, or even 14, simply select specific parts of our ultimate itinerary that you like the sound of best. Crete is such as diverse island with lots to see and do, so we’re sure you’ll be back to explore anything you missed.
If you want to slow the pace down a little bit, feel free to add more days or spend longer in each area. 😊 We hope you enjoy reading our complete Crete itinerary. Be sure to let us know if you have any questions in the comments section below.
A quick note on getting around
Whilst visiting Crete, we recommend hiring a car if you can. It’ll allow you to explore more places and gives you a lot more freedom compared to tours. Driving in Crete is fairly easy as the roads aren’t too busy and traffic is spread out.
If you prefer not to rent a car, all of the destinations on our Crete itinerary can be visited via private or groups tours. Alternatively, you can hire a private driver for the day.
Chania 4 days (days 1 – 5)
The beautiful Chania region is the perfect place to start your adventure around Crete. With its picturesque Venetian Harbour, bustling market and quaint streets of cafes, shops and bakeries, there’s no better place to welcome you to Crete. It has a good mix of history and sightseeing opportunities in the town itself, whilst the surrounding area has some of Crete’s best beaches and coastal scenery. Base yourself in Chania to explore the entire western region of Crete.
Where to stay in Chania
Are you a lover of quaint local towns with narrow alleyways, terracotta buildings and plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes? If so, Chania town is the ideal place to stay.
If you’d prefer to base yourself a little outside of town near a beach, in a larger, more luxurious hotel, the neighbouring resorts of Nea Chora or Kolymvari are good choices. No matter where you stay in the Chania area, you’ll be able to tour all of the main sites easily.
Day 1: Explore Chania town
Start your first day exploring the beating heart of the region, Chania town. The scenic old town is centred around a Venetian Harbour, where you can go for a stroll, enjoy a drink with a view, or try one of the many restaurants. Here are the top things to see and do in a full day of sightseeing:
Chania market – Walk through the bustling indoor market and pick up some local gifts. It’s a great place to buy olive oil, soaps and honey. The adjacent outdoor Municipal Market of Chania has plenty of clothing, handmade gift and accessory stalls.
Marina and lighthouse – The most famous view of Chania is the lighthouse and harbour area. It’s printed on every postcard and you won’t miss it! Wander by the docked boats and cross the seawall all the way to the lighthouse. This historic area of Chania has history dating back to the early 1300’s.
Firkas Fortress – Firkas Fortress overlooks the Venetian Harbour at the edge of the coastline. Capture some nice photos or go inside for a closer look.
Shopping – In our opinion, Chania is the best place in Crete for shopping. Whether you’re looking for gifts, souvenirs or the latest high street fashion, the four corners of town has plenty of shops to keep you browsing for hours.
Maritime museum of Crete – Learn about Chania’s seafaring past and browse a selection of ancient Greek artefacts.
Discover ancient ruins and impressive churches – Key buildings to visit during your day in Chania include the Cathedral of Eisodion tis Theotokou, the Church of Agios Nikolaus and Hassan Pascha Mosque.
The best thing to do in Chania is simply wandering the narrow streets, marvelling at the impressive architecture, colourful flowers and old façade. We recommend taking your day slowly and stopping for plenty of coffee and snack breaks.
Agia Triada Monastery and Seitan Limania Cove
On day 2, we recommend venturing north-east of Chania to the coastline. Both Agia Triada Monastery and Seitan Limania are located near Chania airport and are slightly off the beaten trail, so you’ll need a car to get there.
Agia Triada Monastery
Crete is home to many monasteries, but not many are quite as stunning as Agia Triada. A mountain-top location and countryside scenery set the scene for this Greek Orthadox Monastery, which was built in the 17th century. Take a moment to marvel at the grand entrance and then walk up the steps into the heart of the monastery. Inside, you’ll find flower decorated corridors, intricate terracotta architecture and plenty of turrets, viewpoints and archways.
We recommend visiting Agia Triada Monastery in the morning and then heading straight to Seitan Limania, which is only a 20-minute drive down the road
Seitan Limania Cove
Another hugely popular tourist attraction is the tiny slither of beach known as Seitan Limania. A canyon cove has formed between two rock faces, creating a unique passageway that leads to the beach. Go for a swim if the waves aren’t too aggressive, take some pictures from the viewpoint or relax on the beach. Seitan Limania is a nice beach to visit for a couple of hours and it’s the scenery that makes it unique.
Depending on how early you start your daytrip and how long you spend at the beach, you could easily complete both attractions before lunchtime. Then you can either stay at the beach for relaxation in the sun and a packed lunch, head back to Chania or continue exploring.
If you want another cool beach destination to round off your day, drive further north to Katholiko Beach or Lera Cave viewpoint.
Elafonissi Beach Day trip
Your Crete itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of Crete’s most amazing beaches. In fact, Elafonissi is regarded as one of the best beaches in Europe! Beautiful beach scenery surrounds a central, shallow lagoon. The sand glistens in the sun, creating the unique pink glow that the beach is famous for.
Elafonissi Beach is located to the south west of the island, far beyond the mountains and in a fairly remote location. As Chania is located to the far west, you’re in one of the best locations for visiting Elafonissi, being only a 1 hour away. We recommend visiting Elafonissi for a half or full day trip. You can either drive there yourself or book a day tour with a local tour company in Chania. Find out everything you need to know about visiting Elafonissi Beach in our guide here.
Use this day to explore more of Chania town (it’s well worth visiting twice), relaxing, or doing whatever excites you the most. We always recommend planning in a few relaxation days during your holiday. 😊
Balos and Gramvousa daytrip
Another day trip that you can’t miss when staying on the Chania side of the island is Balos Beach and Gramvousa Island. This stunning duo of beaches and stunning natural scenery is some of the best you’ll find in Crete! Much like Elafonissi, Balos Beach is a collection of beautiful, remote beaches. It also has a lagoon that has formed in the centre of the land mass. It features warm, natural pools of water, where you can bathe in the sun and enjoy the view.
A 10-minute boat ride from Balos Beach is the historic but tiny island of Gramvousa. It features an abandoned shipwreck, idyllic golden-sand beach and a scenic fortress at its highest mountain peak. This makes for an excellent hike.
The best way to see Balos and Gramvousa in one action-packed daytrip is to join an organized boat tour from Kissamos Port. Find out everything you need to know about Balos Beach and Gramvousa in our guide here.
Rethymno 3 days (days 6 – 8)
After spending time in Chania, we recommend mixing up your base location and venturing further east to Rethymno. This busier town is a popular holiday resort that has a good dash of history. A long sandy beach is surrounded by restaurants, bars and hotels. It also boasts a picturesque marina and lighthouse, alongside an old town centre that’s much like the narrow streets of Chania.
There’s always a lot going on in Rethymno, and its central island location makes it a great base for exploring.
Where to stay in Rethymno
Beach lovers will like staying along the promenade in the new area of town. You’re only a short walk from the marina and old town, but have close proximity to countless bars, restaurants and shops.
For those that want a more traditional taste of Crete, stay in the centre of Rethymno old town. The cobblestone side streets are home to some excellent boutique hotels and apartment options.
On the way to Rethymno from Chania, we highly recommend taking the short detour to Lake Kournas, which you’ll pass on the main road between the two towns. The lake is a vast body of water that’s surrounded by peaceful lake shores. It features nature walks, quiet restaurants and some fun family activities. The number one thing to do here is to rent a pedal boat and venture out onto the lake, slowly scouring the surface of the water for a chance to see turtles.
Lake Kournas is one of the most peaceful places we visited in Crete and the scenery will blow you away! It’s a less popular destination and is much unlike the rest of the places you’ll visit.
Rethymno Old Town
Once you arrive in Rethymno, we recommend spending the rest of your day settling in to your new surroundings. Go for a long walk by the beach and onward to the picturesque marina. Or for those that want to step straight into the top sightseeing activities, go on a walking tour of the old town and stop by the old Venetian fortress for some amazing views of town.
Rethymno is an excellent place to be on an evening, with a vibrant restaurant and bar scene and lots going on throughout town. Make sure you keep some energy for a fun night of eating and Greek dancing!
Venturing back out of Rethymno on the seventh day of your Crete itinerary, we recommend driving south and through the mountains, to the ultra-impressive Kourtaliotiko Gorge. Crete has a number of breath-taking gorges to explore and this was our favourite. Drive between two huge cliff faces into a valley of winding streams, a waterfall and hiking routes. It’s the perfect place for an adventurous morning of nature sightseeing!
We recommend arriving early whilst the temperatures are still cool, embarking on a 2 hour-or-so hike. You’ll walk deep within the mountains, stop by an old monastery, and will get up close to a series of waterfalls. You’ll need a car or private driver to visit Kourtaliotiko Gorge.
Preveli Palm Forest
Driving further south again, you’ll reach Preveli Beach. Preveli is a remote beach location that doesn’t attract a great deal of tourists, so you’ll have the area to explore for yourself. Rows of palm trees and white sands will have you feeling like you’re in Caribbean; not the Mediterranean!
Right next to Preveli Beach, you have the opportunity to wade up the mouth of the river. Rows of trees surround the stream and it’s fairly shallow, so you should be able to walk in most areas. The river leads to a series of walking trails, a waterfall, and some of Crete’s most untouched natural scenery. This is another unique activity that you can’t miss during your time on the island!
Day 8 of your Crete itinerary is the ideal day to explore more of Rethymno, relax on the beach, or a bit of both. You may also wish to take advantage of your hotel pool. Spend your day in Rethymno however you like, but be sure to check out some of the top attractions:
Rethymno Beach – A long sandy beach with lots of sun loungers. You’ll also find countless bars and restaurants on the promenade.
Old Venetian Fortress – A 16th century hilltop fortress with panoramic views of Rethymno. Walk along the fortress walls and explore the courtyards.
Old Town area – Rethymno’s old town centre is a labyrinth of cobbled walkways, hidden restaurants, cafes and plenty of shops. It’s everything you imagine a Greek town to be and each alleyway is picture-perfect.
Rethymno Lighthouse – A scenic gathering point with views of the harbour, lighthouse and outer walls.
Museums and Galleries – Top museums include the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno and the Historical and Folk Art Museum.
Heraklion area 3 days (days 9 – 11)
After exploring the centre of the island, venture further east to the Heraklion area of Crete. As the huge and bustling capital of the island, this is the beating heart of work life for the locals. It’s also has the largest airport and ferry connections to other Greek islands.
Whilst visiting Heraklion, many tourists choose to stay just outside of the city in the neighbouring resorts of Gouves and Anissaras. These are more tourist centred beach destinations and are still close enough to discover the history of the Heraklion area.
Where to stay in Heraklion
As mentioned above, we recommend staying outside of Heraklion city, in favour of the more scenic beach resorts. There are a lot more hotels to choose from! You can enjoy a traditional beach holiday, with the bonus of plenty of sightseeing opportunities nearby.
Arkadi Monastery, Melidoni Cave and Heraklion resort area
The drive from Rethymno to Heraklion takes around 1hr 10mins, so it isn’t far at all. Therefore, we recommend exploring some cool sites on the way to your new destination. The beautiful Arkadi Monastery and Melidoni Cave are a short detour on your way to Heraklion.
Arkadi is a 16th Century Eastern Orthodox monastery that has withstood the test of time. Its ancient façade and stone walled courtyard is a marvel to see! As one of the top rated monasteries in Crete, you’ll want to spend at least an hour and a half here.
A short drive north from Arkadi Monastery, you have a completely different type of attraction. Melidoni is an ancient cave that has been preserved as a tourist attraction. It sits on a mountain side with some impressive views of the valley below, making the drive up there just as cool as the cave! The attraction itself is a series of illuminated chambers with stalactite and stalagmite rock formations everywhere to be seen. This is a somewhat off-the-tourist trail destination that is well worth checking out.
For the rest of day 9 on your Crete itinerary, complete the drive to the Heraklion area and settle in for some much needed rest in your new accommodation. You might want to take a walk around your new area too!
Start day 10 of your Crete itinerary with one of the island’s best known tourist attractions – Knossos Palace. The ancient home of the Minoans, Knossos, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site in Crete. It’s also thought to be Europe’s oldest city. Arrive early to beat the crowds and spend time discovering this vast collection of ruins, the remains of a palace, and various other Minoan buildings.
This site is said to be the location of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Therefore, it’s well worth getting a tour guide or audio guide to walk you through the history as you explore. Be sure you book your visit on the official website before arriving.
Knossos Palace is only a short drive from Heraklion, so it’s a good idea to see both destinations in one day. Drive 20-minutes down the road to Heraklion City and find a parking space near the harbour area (to beat the traffic). As the busy capital, Heraklion is much unlike many of the places you would have already visited on our Crete itinerary. It’s a little rough around the edges and isn’t as pretty as Chania. However, it’s full of history and has some cool things to see.
We recommend checking out the following attractions:
Heraklion Archaeological Museum – Perfectly paired with your visit to Knossos earlier in the day, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum is hands down the best museum on the island and one of the finest in Greece. It hosts a wide selection of Minoan and other ancient Greek artefacts.
Cathedral of St. Minas – A beautifully designed church that serves as the seat for the archbishop. This is one of many old buildings in the area that are steeped in history.
Lion’s Fountain – Located in the heart of the city centre, this intricately designed Greek fountain is a great place to people watch with a coffee and soak in the atmosphere.
Old Venetian Harbour – As our favourite place in Heraklion, the Old Venetian Harbour is a colourful collection of boats, a fortress and a long promenade by the sea. It’s a lot quieter here than the rest of the city.
On the 11th day of your Crete itinerary, we recommend driving to the scenic mountains of the Lasithi Plateau, which is just outside of the Heraklion resort area. This is your chance to get a sample of life in the Cretan countrywide. Wine makers, olive oil producers and farmers make the mountains their home. It’s an idyllic array of quaint villages, small shops, cafes, and most of all, stunning viewpoints.
The drive around the plateau by car is arguably an attraction in itself! Rolling hills of lush scenery surround you as you go up and down the hills. Step outside of the car to go on a mini hike or just stop for a picnic and breath of fresh air. The Lasithi Plateau isn’t one place, but instead, a road trip of multiple villages, mountain trails and stop-off points.
Diktaion Andron Cave
A key stop on the Lasithi Plateau road trip is Diktaion Andron cave. It’s a series of preserved caverns on the mountainside that have been safety-proofed for tourists to visit. Coloured lights illuminate the caves and you can walk through at your own leisure. There are some cool rock formations and hanging stalagmites waiting to be discovered!
On exiting the cave, you’ll have more stunning views of the valley, with windmills, white-washed buildings and lush Mediterranean scenery in the distance.
Days 12 – 14
Use your final days to explore anything that you’ve missed, or simply wind down after a busy two weeks of venturing around Crete.
You can view a full list of the best places to visit in Crete in our travel guide here.
If you’d like to extend your Crete itinerary and sample more of Crete’s eastern coastline, we recommend checking out the following destinations. Agios Nikolaus or Elounda are great bases to explore the far eastern beaches and attractions.
Elounda is a small tourist town that sits by the coast, along a scenic clifftop road. Many of its hotels are perched on the cliff edge, whilst the town itself is where all the action happens. It has a picturesque marina, plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants, a beach, and a long promenade that leads to an island. It’s is popular with tourists and is a particularly good spot to visit if you want to go on a boat trip.
Speaking of boat trips, the boat excursion to Spinalonga Island is one of the most popular things to do in Crete. The island is just off the mainland and can only be reached by boat. It was one of the last remaining leper colonies in Europe, with many of the building ruins preserved for you to see today. It’s also the site of a 16th Century Venetian fortress. Hike up to the top of the fortress walls for amazing views of the entire bay!
Spinalonga Island in itself is worth extending your Crete itinerary for. You can visit on a day-trip from Heraklion. Alternatively, stay in Elounda and or Agios Nikolaus to explore more of the area.
We hope you enjoyed reading our action packed Crete itinerary! There’s no doubt that there’s a lot packed into 2 weeks, but you’ll also find some time to relax. Many of our single day itineraries aren’t full days, so you can chill out by the pool after a nice day of sightseeing. Use our guide to help plan your own 5 day, 7, day, 10 day, 14, or practically anything you like. The itinerary can be customized to your liking.
If you have any questions about the destinations featured on our list or need help planning, be sure to leave us a comment below. Alternatively, send us an email.
Read our other Crete travel guides:
By RickyAuthor bio:
An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.